That’s the beauty of Mike D’Antoni’s system… there’s so much space, so much creativity… you just be aggressive, you just attack. — Jeremy Lin
You finally got to see it tonight. Finally, after more than a year of a rookie GM adding the wrong pieces to the great Warriors core, and rookie coaches running the wrong plays, with the wrong lineups, in the wrong systems.
You saw it tonight, finally. The reason why David Lee was an all-star for Mike D’Antoni. The reason why Don Nelson traded for David Lee.
David Lee At Center.
The Pick and Roll. The High Post.
The Warriors Big Three combining for 87 points and 22 assists against one of the most ferocious defenses in the league.
Jeremy Lin has been in the news a bit lately. He too finally got to run the right plays with the right lineups in the right system, for a great coach. It makes a difference. Of course, the baying hounds of our great Bay Area media are now suggesting that the Warriors made a mistake letting Lin go. They absolutely did not (more on this below).
Because the Warriors have a couple of pretty good players themselves that can run pick and roll with David Lee at center. A couple of undersized off-guards by the names of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
Mark Jackson: After the last game against the Thunder, the Bay Area media and the majority of Warriors fans wrote off the horrible loss by stating that the Thunder were out of the Warriors’ league, just a way better team. And in the last few weeks we’ve begun hearing the inevitable drumbeat out of the fetid swamp that is the San Jose Mercury News sports page that the Warriors core is just not good enough. That David Lee is overvalued. That Curry and Ellis can’t play together. That this Warriors roster can’t go anywhere.
The problem with this Warriors team has nothing to do with Lee, Curry and Ellis. It has to do with the GM, Joe Lacob, and the coach, Mark Jackson.
In my pocket-recap to the last Thunder game, I laid out the four main reasons why the Thunder made the Warriors look so bad. If you take a glance at what I wrote, you will note that every single point that I made was addressed in this game.
1) I said that you need a spread four to beat the Thunder, and that Joe Lacob doesn’t believe in spread fours.
Nevertheless, once Biedrins left the court for good, Mark Jackson went small for the rest of the game, playing Dorell Wright at the spread four.
2) I said Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson didn’t understand that David Lee is a great center.
Behold, David Lee at center.
3) I said that Mark Jackson hung Stephen Curry out to dry, by forcing him to guard Westbrook, and refusing to help him with double teams.
In this game, Monta Ellis was put on Westbrook. And in the second half, the Warriors began double-teaming him, forcing him to do what he absolutely hates to do, pass the ball. Behold, the “all-star” point guard with 9 turnovers.
4) Matchups. I said that Mark Jackson doesn’t understand them.
Did you see how fast the Thunder yanked Perkins off the court once David Lee started lighting him up?
Did you see how Ibaka only got 6 rebounds in this game, after getting 12 in the last, including 8 offensive rebounds? Did you notice that the Warriors actually outrebounded the Thunder?
The Warriors have gotten especially clobbered on the defensive boards when playing big against teams that draw David Lee out of the lane. Playing small keeps David Lee under the basket. And gives the Warriors something to compensate for their size disadvantage: the quickness advantage. Ellis 7 rbs. Curry 7 rbs.
I also wondered after the first Thunder game whether the Warriors’ starters were wondering if Mark Jackson actually tried to win the game. Well, there’s no doubt at all about this one, is there? Jeremy Tyler’s butt was nailed to the pine. Dorell Wright played the entire second half. Lee played all but one minute. Ellis and Curry got a couple minutes of rest, but not both at the same time.
A big step forward for Mark Jackson in this game. Will it last? I have my doubts, but let’s see.
One little quibble: Why not bring Udoh in for Lee on defense on the Thunder’s last play? Durant might have had a tougher look. (I have no doubt what Jackson’s answer would have been had he been asked this question: “David Lee deserved to be in. He earned the right.”)
Monta Ellis: Monta has been forced to carry short-handed Warriors teams for long stretches over the last few years. He frequently draws not just double-teams, but triple-teams. And he occasionally has had bad turnover games as a result.
It turns out Russell Westbrook doesn’t handle double-teams too well himself. The only difference is, there has never been a need for him to force his offense on this Thunder team. As his backup, Eric Maynor, proved in last year’s playoffs.
So who is the better player, Monta Ellis or the “all-star” Westbrook? I’d take Monta any day. He’s by far the more versatile scorer. And he also happens to be far less selfish, and a much better passer.
Defense? Read the scoreboard.
I know, I’m a homer.
Stephen Curry: Guess what, Curry can run the pick and roll.
I’ll bet you Mike D’Antoni would give his left nut to have Curry as his point guard right now. And if either he or Don Nelson had had Curry the last two years, there would be absolutely no controversy over whether Curry was actually a point guard. None.
The controversy would be whether or not he was an all-star.
David Lee: Too many highlight plays for me to mention. I’m sure everyone knows what pick and roll is by now. But does every one know what the high post is?
I have been stating ever since the trade that brought him here that David Lee is one of the best high post centers in the league. You finally got to see why tonight. The high post is where he got most of his 10 assists. (This, by the way, was a very clever adjustment against the tremendous ball-hawking of the Thunder guards. It was, in fact… point center! Don Nelson would be proud.)
If you want to see what I mean by the high post, check out the first two plays of the game. And 9:45 3Q, that beautiful backdoor play to Monta. And Lee to Curry at 11:00 4Q.
The brilliant basketball minds on the staff of the Mercury News have been putting forth the proposition that the Warriors should have used their amnesty on David Lee. And it seems that a fair number of the Warriors nation have been swallowing this whole. What do you think?
I think they’re nuts. I think that David Lee, when played in the right system, with the right supporting cast, is one of the very best big men in the NBA. He is an incredible talent.
And I’ve thought that since day one.
The Nightmare: I thought Udoh was very good in this game, despite his lack of rebounding. His help defense on Westbrook and Durant was extraordinary.
Nevertheless, I think Mark Jackson was absolutely correct to go small in this game.
What I’m not sure of is whether or not Udoh could have spelled Lee at center for a few minutes, and taken over in the pick and roll and in the high post. Udoh has gotten a few high post looks in the last several games, and looked OK. How about the pick and roll?
I think he can do it, and I’d like to see it tried. Although perhaps in less pressurized situations than the fourth quarter of this game.
Biedrins: What can you say about this line? I see all zeros, except for a 1 and a 5.
Maybe it was a good thing.
Jeremy Lin: I have to insert a few words on Lin here, given all the furor over his last two performances. New York is going nuts, and so are Warriors fans.
It’s nonsense. I watched his last game, in which he actually exceeded his first statistically. And what I learned is this: Jeremy Lin is the same player he’s always been. He can’t shoot. He can’t go left. In fact, he really struggles with his handle. Most if not all of his 8 turnovers in his last game came not from trying to force passes ala Curry, but off his dribble, which almost never happens to Curry or other real point guards. He’s got no midrange shots, no floater, and probably never will. I know this because I watched him airball floaters for half an hour, unguarded, while practicing before a home game last year. Airball. There’s not much touch there.
He’s playing for a great coach, in a great system, with great pick and roll targets. This has happened before, with a couple of guys named Raymond Felton and Chris Duhon.
He’s also played against two teams with zero interior shot-blocking, the Nets and the Jazz. And neither team scouted him, judging by how they failed to go under the picks, and force him to shoot. And failed to force him left. That will change.
Which is not to say Lin won’t continue to be fairly effective for the Knicks. I’m sure he will, running pick and roll with Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire. But I’ll lay 100 to 1 that he won’t be the Knicks starting point guard next year. Nor anyone else’s.
Jim Barnett: With occasional interruptions for outbursts of “Shut up!”, I managed to leave the sound up while watching this game.
Which is why, in closing, I can bring you the great Jim Barnett’s one-sentence recap:
Regardless of the outcome, the Golden State Warriors made Oklahoma City play their game tonight.